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Could changes to traffic signals decrease pedestrian accidents?

Posted on behalf of Mark F. Griffin of D'Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC on Dec 18, 2014 in Pedestrian Accidents

As is the case with any motor vehicle accident there are multiple reasons why such an incident could occur. This is also the case where pedestrian accidents are concerned. One situation that is commonly present when a pedestrian accident occurs is a vehicle making a left hand turn.

This maneuver is dangerous to pedestrians since in the process of making this move drivers are concentrating on the traffic around them and not on any pedestrians which may be attempting to cross. This is true even when the turn is occurring at an intersection with a crosswalk.

The ability of a driver attempting to turn left, to see pedestrians, is impacted by different factors as well. In addition to the number of other vehicles on the road, a pedestrian who is in a group of people will be easier to see than just one by him or herself.

There are multiple techniques that pedestrian advocates suggest for making the situation safer. One is to include a signal phase during which only pedestrians can be in motion—no vehicles. Another is to only allow left turns when a green arrow is present. A drawback with either of these approaches is that it would make the wait time of any signal longer since an additional cycle would be added. This is true even if no pedestrians are at an intersection waiting to cross. In addition, it is unclear whether such changes would make a difference.

Drivers making a left turn from one street onto another must be aware of everything going on around them, including pedestrians crossing. When a driver’s failure to see a pedestrian leads to them hurting that individual, it is possible that the pedestrian could sue the driver. A lawsuit of this nature could result in financial compensation for the pedestrian, if successful.

Source: Streetsblog USA, “Study: Too Many Drivers Fail to Look for Pedestrians When Turning Left" Tanya Snyder, April 4, 2013